Reversal of intrinsic and acquired forms of drug resistance by hyaluronidase treatment of solid tumors

Cancer Lett. 1998 Sep 11;131(1):35-44. doi: 10.1016/s0304-3835(98)00199-2.


There are two broad categories of drug resistance encountered during cancer chemotherapy, i.e. intrinsic and acquired. They are observed in virtually every type of tumor with every known anticancer chemotherapeutic drug. As such there is an urgent need to develop innovative approaches of preventing or reversing these types of resistance. One strategy to do so is to develop completely new drugs which may be resistance free, such as direct acting angiogenesis inhibitors (T. Boehm, J. Folkman, T. Browder, M.S. O'Reilly, Antiangiogenic therapy of experimental cancer does not induce acquired drug resistance, Nature 390 (1997) 404-407; R.S. Kerbel, Inhibition of tumor angiogenesis as a strategy to circumvent acquired resistance to anti-cancer therapeutic agents, BioEssays 13 (1991) 31-36; R.S. Kerbel, A cancer therapy resistant to resistance, Nature 390 (1997) 335-336). Another is to devise methods which will improve significantly the effectiveness of those conventional drugs already in use, such as adriamycin, cyclophosphamide and taxol. We have directed efforts towards the latter. They depend on the discovery of a new class of chemosensitizers which act as antiadhesive agents rendering solid tumors more susceptible to such conventional cytotoxic therapeutic drugs. Examples of this concept are illustrated with bovine testicular hyaluronidase and a mouse mammary tumor called EMT-6. When this enzyme preparation is used to treat intact multicellular spheroids of the EMT-6 tumor, the spheroids are substantially disaggregated. Dispersed spheroids are more susceptible to the cytotoxic effects of cyclophosphamide than intact spheroids. Moreover, this antiadhesive chemosensitizing effect can actually be reproduced in BALB/c mice when EMT-6 cells are grown intraperitoneally as an ascites tumor (consisting mostly of multicellular aggregates) and the mice are given injections of hyaluronidase and cyclophosphamide. In a similar fashion, the indifference of P-glycoprotein-positive multidrug-resistant EMT-6 spheroids to the P-glycoprotein reversal agent PSC-833 (a cyclosporin A analogue) can be reversed by disaggregation of the intact spheroids by hyaluronidase. This renders the treated cells highly sensitive to a combination of adriamycin and PSC-833 in a manner similar to the striking chemosensitization effects commonly observed in monolayer culture systems. Thus, hyaluronidase has the potential to reverse forms of both intrinsic and acquired drug resistance in solid tumors, such as EMT-6, which are sensitive to its antiadhesive effects.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't
  • Review

MeSH terms

  • ATP Binding Cassette Transporter, Subfamily B, Member 1 / physiology
  • Animals
  • Antineoplastic Agents / therapeutic use*
  • Cattle
  • Cell Adhesion / drug effects
  • Drug Resistance, Multiple
  • Drug Resistance, Neoplasm*
  • Female
  • Hyaluronoglucosaminidase / therapeutic use*
  • Mammary Neoplasms, Experimental / drug therapy
  • Mice
  • Spheroids, Cellular / drug effects
  • Tumor Cells, Cultured


  • ATP Binding Cassette Transporter, Subfamily B, Member 1
  • Antineoplastic Agents
  • Hyaluronoglucosaminidase